Sidekicked

Common Sense Media says

Smart coming-of-age tale costumed as superhero adventure.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value
Academics are an important part of the sidekicks' training. For this group of teens, a strong background in science and math is very helpful.
 
Positive messages
Drew learns to accept and cope with shades of gray. The unfolding plot shows that loyalty is a worthy trait but can dangerously cloud judgment. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes -- and with diverse skill sets -- but not everyone can be saved. In spite of all the public acclaim awarded heroes, Drew reveals he and his colleagues pay a significant emotional toll, and do so willingly.
 
Positive role models
Despite his disappointment in the Titan, Drew goes to great lengths to try to help the faded hero. He doubts his abilities but nevertheless puts himself in danger to help strangers and friends. His parents don't know about his work as a sidekick, but they worry for his safety. Mr. Masters is a deeply caring mentor.
 
Violence
The Dealer and the Jacks are menacing figures. There are quite a few violent and suspenseful scenes, and one character dies. Other characters are injured. It's pretty typical of the genre, and doesn't linger over grisly details.
 
Sex

There's occasional mild kissing with a reference to kissing "with tongue." One superhero is described as "hot" and a "vixen."

Language
Mild middle-school coarseness, including "butt," "sucks," "jerk," and "fart head."
 
Consumerism
Pop culture references include frequent mention of brands including iPod, Coke, Pumas, Jaws, Walmart, Pop-Tarts, Justin Bieber, Twizzlers, Rice Krispies, SlimFast, Call of Duty, iPhone, Muzak, Play-Doh, Right Guard, Irish Spring, Kermit the Frog, Mountain Dew, Disney World, Vick VapoRub, iCarly, Ford, and Chevy Suburban.
 
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The teen characters don't smoke or drink, but Drew knows the local bar's the most likely place he'll find the Titan. The ex-hero is presented as a repulsive figure, smelling of alcohol.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Sidekicked contains several action-packed fighting scenes, given that it's a novel about superheroes and villains. It has some heavy themes and grapples with questions of morality and consequences. A former superhero has become a pitiful alcoholic who's most often found occupying a barstool. The young teen hero uses his special talent to cheat on a test, eavesdrop on a mentor, and help a friend try to pick up girls. He later steals cars while trying to save someone in danger. He's uncomfortable with lying to his parents to protect his secret identity.
 

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What's the story?

Andrew Bean is in the most exclusive club at school: H.E.R.O., a secret program to train superhero sidekicks. Drew has extraordinary senses, but that's about it. His mentor, the Titan, is a reclusive legend too burdened by booze and misery to aid him. His best friend, Jenna, is oblivious to his timid romantic feelings. Then a prison break heralds the return of the Dealer, a villain thought to have been killed by the Titan years ago. As the Dealer and the three Jacks draw near, superheroes begin to disappear, and their sidekicks are in peril. Drew desperately tries to rouse the Titan -- to help himself, even if he won't help anyone else. Left fumbling on his own, Drew begins doubting his loyalties as the line between good and bad blurs.

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Is it any good?

QUALITY
 
SIDEKICKED is a terrific addition to the kid-living-a-fantastic-double-life genre, delivering plenty of action while deftly exploring themes of morality, loyalty, identity, and consequences. John David Anderson maintains suspense with unpredictable twists and turns, narrating with 13-year-old Drew's wry voice. Already plagued with self-doubt, Drew is let down by his hero and should-be mentor, a friend, and even his clueless parents, who do all they can for him based on what little they know.
 
Author John David Anderson digs deep into the nature of good and evil and how the two can get confused. The Titan's fall delves into the importance of personal responsibility -- and the danger of taking it too far. And, of course, there's the question of what qualifies as true heroism. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about when the ends justify the means. Drew tries to justify using his power to spy on others, and he recruits another sidekick to help him steal a car during a rescue mission.  Is Drew right to use his special skills in these situations? 
  •  
  • Why do you think books about kids with unusual powers -- sorcery, superhero traits, supernatural abilities -- are so popular? Would this story still work if the teens were involved with, say, a junior police officer training program instead of H.E.R.O.?

  • One of the teens means well but follows the wrong path. Do you think the consequences are fitting?

Book details

Author:John David Anderson
Genre:Adventure
Topics:Superheroes, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Walden Pond Press
Publication date:June 25, 2013
Number of pages:384
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Read aloud:9 - 12
Read alone:9 - 12
Available on:Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle, Nook

This review of Sidekicked was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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